Golf, Technology, and Unanticipated Consequences

From a Detroit News article on why golf handicaps have not come down despite significant improvements in golf club technology:

“Amateurs are less consistent and, therefore, do not experience the full effect of this technology,” said [a prominent golf course architect]. “Often, they are at a disadvantage with this technology because the errant shots are traveling farther off-line then they did previously.”

Fascinating, non? While technology has increased the distance that an average golfer can hit a golf ball, the main effect has been for them to hit the ball further awry. I’m living proof of this, with my Callaway 454 uber-driver causing me to regularly launch balls 280–300 yards, albeit far across other fairways and nearby service roads. It’s spectacular, of course, but neither safe nor particularly effective at reducing my score.


  1. Presumably these golf equipment companies are fully aware that their customers are purchasing their clubs based on the distance it will hit versus the golf score you end up with.
    Reminds me of the story about a pen company who had engineers who were focused entirely on making the pen ‘click’ more loudly because that’s how people bought pens. Or how HP inserted a metal plate in the back of their calculators because weight was how customers differentiated a good vs. a bad calculator (after all 2+2 is the same on all calculators).

  2. No Gain Without Pain

    Not being a golfer, I find this Detroit News story pretty funny: Statistical studies show that the average handicap of recreational golfers hasn’t come down in the past decade, despite the emergence of hot-faced drivers and soaring golf balls. ….

  3. Also sound like what the farmers would say about four-wheel drive pick-up trucks back when I was growing up: “Means you’re further in the muddy field when you gotta get out and get the tractor to pull the truck out.”

  4. Grayson — Love it! Great “earthy” way of putting it.

  5. 80% of your swings on a course will be 100 yards or less. Leaps in club technology for long-range drivers would predictably not have a huge impact on golf handicaps.

  6. Contemporary golfers:
    1) Keeping score is for losers.
    2) Dropping your handicap won’t make your dick any bigger, sport.
    3) If hitting a big one off the first tee – in front of those who judge you – causes such anxiety in your life that you need to buy a new driver every year, throw your bag in the nearest pond, pyre the fruity outfits, and spend more time with your kids.